At 40, I recall looking at a picture of myself at 32. I was on the beach in Ensenada with a few girlfriends for my bachelorette party, wearing a tankini. Dang, I looked good. But you know what? I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It wasn’t good enough.
It was during my forties that I gradually re-framed my thoughts on aging. And when I hit 50, it somehow clicked into place. I dropped the last 10 lbs. And I want to share with you how I keep fit over 50:
- Exercise is a genuine habit. It’s not something I try to fit in. It’s part of my lifestyle. I do it five to six days a week, barring significant illness or injury. Even then, I can usually do something. (E.g. I injured my foot a couple of months ago and walking was difficult. I figured out the strength exercises I could manage and did them M-F for a few weeks while my foot healed.) I’ve developed the identity of a regular exerciser.
- I got serious about strength training. It’s not my favorite and even when I was a personal trainer in the 90s most of my personal exercise routine consisted of cardio. Mentally, I had to decide it was a priority to build and preserve my muscle mass so that I could be strong and healthy for the next 50. This was no longer about wearing a bikini (which never provided the motivation I needed).
- Stretching is a necessity if I want to feel good. I have a routine I do every morning that consists of a few things I learned at a Kundalini Yoga retreat mixed in with some standard stretches. At night I do a couple moves to loosen my hip joints and anything else that needs it. If I’m sitting a lot during the day, I get up and stretch my chest, hip flexors and neck.
- I’m totally okay with feeling hungry. For most of my life, I ate the moment I felt any bit of hunger. Like I was afraid to get too hungry (with good reason…it feels terrible and leads me to overeat). But I’ve learned enough about the cues to know when I genuinely need to eat and when I can wait (which is most of the time). Instead of eating soon after waking, I’m able to wait 2-3 hours. I no longer snack between breakfast and lunch. And I’m done with food at dinner. No more after-dinner snacking. Even the “healthy” kind.
- Whole plants are the priority in my diet. I’m always looking for ways to get more into my day. And I always seek to trade out refined carbohydrates for whole grains. Even when animal protein is on the menu, I add plants. Like when we have eggs and sausage on a Saturday morning, you can bet a sweet potato, avocado, salsa and grapefruit are on the plate, too. At a Thai restaurant I’m trading out white for brown rice and my protein is tofu. Dessert for me is a couple of dates dipped in almond butter. Because my mind is focused on plants, it feels abnormal to not eat them.
These habits did not start out feeling natural. I’m not someone who grew up in an athletic, or even active, family. I don’t get a high from exercise (they say it exists, but I have yet to find it). I used to think stretching was unproductive (even though I knew better). There was a time I felt deprived if I didn’t have a little dark chocolate every night. And a time when I regularly told myself I was “starving” and needed a snack.
What I really want you to know is, I created a lifestyle that’s thoroughly enjoyable! I curated habits that feel good. I’m not rigid, but I don’t slack off. This isn’t a drudgery. It’s how I’ve learned to enjoy food and love life.
And you can do the same. In a way that works well for you. That feels good to you. That you genuinely enjoy.
Have questions? Let’s talk.